WHO stresses urgent need for R&D for drug-resistant TB alongside newly-prioritized antibiotic-resistant pathogens
28 February 2017 | GENEVA - WHO reaffirms the critical need for research and development (R&D) of new antibiotics to tackle the threat of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB).
“Addressing drug-resistant TB research is a top priority for WHO and for the world,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “More than US$ 800 million per year is currently necessary to fund badly needed research into new antibiotics to treat TB.”
The MDR-TB public health crisis continues: there were an estimated 580 000 cases and 250 000 related deaths in 2015. Only 125 000 were started on treatment, and just half of those people were cured.
Only two new antibiotics to address MDR-TB have completed Phase IIB trials in the past 50 years. Both are still in Phase III trials, and more funding will be required to complete the process and to develop other effective treatment regimens.
On 27 February, WHO published a list of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that have recently been prioritized as posing great risk to human health.
“Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for human TB, was not included in the scope of the prioritization exercise as the intention was to identify previously unrecognised health threats due to increasing antibiotic resistance. There is already consensus that TB is a top priority for R&D for new antibiotics,” said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General at WHO.
Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO Global Tuberculosis Programme, emphasized that TB R&D of new regimens and medicines is a top priority for WHO given the increased political momentum for efforts to end TB. “Drug-resistant TB and research will be major themes at the first WHO Global Ministerial Conference on TB, which will be hosted by the Russian Government in Moscow on 16-17 November 2017. It will also be a key agenda item at the UN General Assembly high-level meeting on TB in 2018. We cannot miss these two critical opportunities to raise support and resources to end TB at highest political level once and for all,” said Dr Raviglione.
The BRICS countries in their latest health ministers meeting held in Delhi last December also highlighted their intention to “promote innovation and develop appropriate R&D tools for TB treatment, also in collaboration with the WHO task force on Global TB research”. Finally, MDR-TB and research needs are under discussion in wider fora such as those focusing on antimicrobial resistance and health security.
- Global priority list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to guide research, discovery, and development of new antibiotics
- First WHO Global Ministerial Conference on Ending TB in the Sustainable Development Era: A Multisectoral Response
- WHO Global TB Report 2016
- WHO End TB Strategy